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Posted: April 22, 2008

Breast Cancer Linked to Drinking in Older Women

While there have been numerous studies in recent years promoting various health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, here's one that doesn't: researchers with the National Cancer Institute and other cancer organizations are warning of a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer in middle-aged and older women.

The study, which reviewed the cases of nearly 185,000 women, found that those who drank moderately -- as little as one or two drinks a day -- were almost a third more likely to develop a breast tumor. Heavier drinkers had a significantly higher risk.

Researchers say they believe alcohol in the bloodstream interferes with how women metabolize estrogen, possibly leading to malignant tumors. The study called for more research, but suggested women discuss lifestyle changes with their physicians.

The research stands in contrast to other recent research that suggests moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, can benefit the heart.

But other health officials -- especially those in the social services arena -- warn that drinking alcohol carries significant risks. They point out that it is an addictive substance, and that alcohol dependence is taking an increasing toll on health and the nation's social structure.

"The amount of alcohol that a person can drink safely is highly individual, depending on genetics, age, sex, weight and family history," warns the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

"Though moderate alcohol use seems to have some health benefits, anything more than moderate drinking can negate any potential benefits," says the Mayo Clinic.

Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks a day if you're a male under 65, or one drink a day if you're a female at any adult age or a male over 65.

(Article courtesy of

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